Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) mocked the Federal Reserve in what is best described as a standup comedy routine on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday.
"I want to congratulate everyone in America, because you now own a hotel chain," Grayson began. "I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking: 'That's funny, I don't remember buying the Red Roof Inn.' But the Federal Reserve Bank, in its wisdom, has done it for you. The Federal Reserve Bank has seen to it that you have the pleasure of ownership of this delightful chain of hotels that extends from sea to shining sea."
"One of the properties," Grayson continued, "happens to be the Red Roof Inn convention center property, right in Orlando, right in my district -- I am so proud. I think I'll stop by there and ask for a free room."
Grayson maintains this verve while explaining a leveraged buyout gone bust that apparently left the Fed holding the Red Roof Inn as part of a pile of crappy assets. "The Federal Reserve became the sucker of last resort. And in doing so, the Federal Reserve made you -- you, America! -- the sucker of last resort."
At issue is the Fed's extraordinary lending to banks during the financial crisis in 2008. Grayson made his speech to urge the Senate to pass Wall Street reform with a provision that will allow the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed and provide a full accounting of how the Fed used taxpayer money to prop up the financial system. The reform bill that passed the House contained an audit; the Senate will vote on a compromise version (most likely) on Tuesday.
"We think we have an amendment now that should have a whole lot of support, and we look forward to seeing it passed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the amendment's sponsor, in an interview with HuffPost on Friday. "What most Americans are concerned about is the expanded power of the Fed during the financial crisis."
Sanders softened his amendment to win the support of the White House and top Democrats in the Senate. The amendment would instruct the GAO to audit the Fed's lending and cough up the details in December.
Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who co-sponsored the House version of the Fed audit provision, blasted Sanders's compromise in a YouTube video on Thursday -- but Grayson put out a statement of qualified support on Friday.
"If Senator Sanders's Federal Reserve Transparency Amendment passes in its current form, as we hope and expect, then America will finally find out about every secret bailout and 'help for our friends' slush fund established and perpetrated by the Federal Reserve in the past three years," said Grayson. "Yet when it does pass, the Sanders Amendment is only a partial victory. The most important improvement over what the Sanders Amendment offers would be to subject the Fed to audit for what it does going forward. To say that America can learn about only what the Fed has done already is like trying to drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror.
"The Fed is an institution that has the power to hand out hundreds of billions of dollars on a whim. Because of that power, the Fed must always be subject to independent audit -- completely, and without reservation."